Accountants, former management company to blame for incomplete audits, says charter school’s chairwoman

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 13, 2020

Carl Blankenship

EAST SPENCER – Essie Mae Kiser Charter School chairwoman Tina Foxx Wallace is laying blame on incomplete audits on the accountant with which the school contracted.

The audits were among the items cited this week when the State Charter School Advisory Board unanimously voted in favor of revoking Essie Mae’s charter. A final decision would need to be made by the N.C. Board of Education, which could come in December. If the decision is supported by the state board, the charter will then have the chance to appeal the decision — something the school’s chairwoman said it intends to do.

During this week’s meeting, the Charter School Advisory Board said it had not received the 2018-2019 or 2019-2020 audits from Essie Mae. But Wallace said the school provided necessary documentation to its auditor, who she declined to name. She said Essie Mae’s former management company, Torchlight Academy, also failed to complete an audit.

Public entities in the state, including municipalities, school districts and charter schools, are required to complete an audit each year.

While there were questions raised during this week’s meeting, Wallace said the school is able to make payroll and cover operational costs with combined local and state allocations. The school’s checking account has $31,000. The latest enrollment figure is 106.

Wallace said there have been no layoffs or operational changes this school year and Essie Mae has the academic and operational support staff needed to continue, employing about 23 people.

Wallace said the charter has hired an attorney in preparation to appeal a potentially adverse decision and will hire a new accountant to complete the audits.

Wallace said she is certain the school has been on the right track and the leadership has demonstrated as much. She said the decision by the Charter School Advisory Board “does not sit well.”

Charter School Advisory Board Chair Alex Quigley, meanwhile, said during this week’s meeting he is confident the state will support the revocation decision and encouraged the school to “hang it up.”

If the state board approves the decision and there is an appeal, the process could take months before there is a final decision.

Wallace said the school is part of her mother’s legacy and provides an opportunity for students in the community and surrounding areas who may not have been served prior to come to the school and get an education tailored to their needs. She said the school is the bond that makes the area a community again and not just a neighborhood.

Wallace said the school has contacted parents about the situation.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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